Governments post-Covid plans will “make or break” the future of life on Earth

Governments that make post-Covid investments in low-carbon energy and energy efficiency whilst avoiding bailouts for fossil-fuel companies will help us stand a chance of averting catastrophic climate change, according to a new study.

The study, published in Nature Climate Change, shows countries that choose a “strong” green stimulus route to help pull themselves out of the economic damages caused by the pandemic could halve the temperature rises expected by 2050, which would avoid 0.3oC of additional warming. This would set the world on track to keep temperature rises to no more than 1.5oC above pre-industrial levels. In other words, the difference between a habitable and an uninhabitable life on Earth.

Study co-author Harriet Forster, said: “Our paper shows that the actual effect of lockdown on the climate is small…The important thing to recognise is that we’ve been given a massive opportunity to boost the economy by investing in green industries – and this can make a huge difference to our future climate.”

Global lockdowns have seen greenhouse gases and pollutants fall due to drops in transport use, as well as reductions in industry and commercial operations, but the impact is only short-lived.

Because the reduction was only temporary, the impact on warming driven by the long-term build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere will be very small, say the authors. Even if some lockdown measures last until the end of 2021, global temperatures will only be 0.01oC lower than expected by 2030, it states.

The study modelled different ways that the world could recover from the pandemic but found lasting climate benefits would only come about with a significant push for low-carbon investment in favour of fossil fuels.

Study lead author Professor Piers Forster, director of the Priestley International Centre for Climate at the University of Leeds, started working on the analysis with his daughter Harriet after her A-levels were cancelled.

They used mobility data from Google and Apple to calculate how 10 different greenhouse gases and pollutants changed between February and June in 123 countries, before a wider team helped with detailed analysis. The team also modelled options for post-lockdown action, ranging from a fossil-fuelled recovery to two different levels of green stimulus.

Take Action

The decisions that your government makes today could dictate the future of yours and your future family’s life. If they are bailing out and continuing to subsidise and invest in the fossil fuel industry, call them out. Through these decisions – made without our consent – they are directly contributing to the collapse of life on Earth. They must be held to account.

Protest outside your parliament until they change their course. Write to your authorities. Spread the word. Do everything you can to stop them in their tracks. The worst of the climate crisis can be avoided if we take action today.

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